The world is changing! Over the last several years, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria have been an emerging focus in the investing world, primarily driven by equity investors where it can be harder for a company raising funds to correlate capital costs with ESG impact. Last month, multinational food-products giant Danone Group and its bank group, led by BNP Paribas, redefined the ESG landscape with a credit facility that is said to directly link borrowing rates to “verified positive impact on the word.”
On September 27, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) released a Request for Proposals seeking applications to the InnovateMass program, which provides up to $250,000 in grant funding for clean energy and water innovation technologies that demonstrate a strong potential for commercialization. In this cycle, MassCEC will also be funding a robotics technology demonstration project under the InnovateMass Robotics Carve-Out. Grants will be awarded to projects that (1) demonstrate innovations in a robot’s energy supply and/or storage system; or (2) deploy robots for clean energy applications.
Building, maintaining, and scaling a sustainable and innovative robotics companies requires accounting for a number of corporate and legal considerations unique to the start-up technology space. For those considering submitting a proposal under the InnovateMass Robotics Carve-Out, Mintz Levin’s Robotics, UAV, and AI practice may offer some valuable insights. When establishing or expanding on a robotics venture, there are a number of vital decisions to be made each step of the way, such as: hiring a key developer, negotiating a critical license or government contract, developing a commercialization strategy, sourcing and negotiating with investors, or seeking exit. Mintz Levin’s team of attorneys and technology specialists has helped groundbreaking robotics companies across the country successfully navigate these questions, and shares key lessons and invaluable resources for similar ventures on its interactive dynamic website, http://www.mintzedge.com/.
As MassCEC’s RFP reflects, the push for scalable innovation in energy, robotics, and artificial intelligence technology is greater than ever before. Along with a skyrocketing demand to commercialize these technologies, we are also seeing major growth in private investment and M&A transactions in the robotics space. 2016 saw over $19 billion paid to acquire 50 robotics companies – a huge leap from $2.27 billion for 32 acquisitions in 2015. 2016 also proved to be the “best year ever for funding robotics startup companies,” with 128 companies seeing a boom in venture capital investments totaling $1.95 billion (a 50% increase from 2015). Companies like Google and Softbank have a vested interest in harnessing and building upon the significant progress initiated by smaller, more targeted tech enterprises, and they’re willing to pay for it – so it makes sense for robotics companies to strategize early for a potential exit transaction down the road. In his article for the National Law Review, Mintz Levin’s Marc Mantell offers a deeper look into the essential elements of the most successful robotics company sales: securing the right legal, accounting, and financial teams; preparing a data room; assessing your intellectual property; carefully approaching deal structure; and protecting your confidential information. Check out Marc’s full recommendations here.
The most effective local clean energy projects result from thorough, targeted, and well-supported research that puts the needs of the surrounding community at the forefront. To support such research efforts in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $661,000 in Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grants to 56 cities and towns across the Commonwealth earlier this month to research, develop, and implement clean energy projects.
The META grants, a function of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) Green Communities Division, were allocated to designated “Green Communities” ( municipalities, regional school districts, and water/wastewater districts) to support more informed clean energy decision-making through localized studies and data analysis. This support will include the services of expert consultants and contractors to assist with a diverse array of local energy projects. META grants are funded through proceeds from Alternative Compliance Payments under the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard.
The Green Communities Division of DOER strives to help all 351 Massachusetts cities, towns, and regional planning authorities find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies. The division provides technical assistance and financial support for municipal initiatives to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in public buildings, facilities and schools. In order to become a designated Green Community, and in turn become eligible for grants that finance local energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, a municipality must meet five key criteria: 1) provide as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research & development, or manufacturing facilities; 2) adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities; 3) establish an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by twenty percent within five years; 4) purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles; and 5) set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction; one way to meet these requirements is to adopt the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code.
The projects and studies funded this year will include solar photovoltaic site evaluation, heating system replacements, ASHRAE Level II audits, technical analysis of energy use at drinking water and wastewater facilities and technical assistance with Green Community reporting and application. These studies promise to incentivize wide-scale energy efficiency and catalyze critical partnerships between Massachusetts communities and clean energy providers that can help these communities meet both short- and long-term energy goals.
On June 2nd, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) issued record requests for proposals from qualified developers to build renewable energy projects that will generate 2.5 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity a year. The two requests combined total the largest renewable RFP issued in any state. Alliance for Clean Energy New York estimates that the solicitation “will drive between 600 and 1,600 megawatts of new capacity depending on the mix of technologies ultimately developed.”
Cleantech Open Northeast is currently accepting applications for its 2017 accelerator program. The oldest and largest accelerator program for clean tech startups, Cleantech Open awards over $500,000 in cash, investment, and in-kind services to winners of its showcasing events. Mintz Levin has proudly been a sponsor of Cleantech Open Northeast since its inception. To learn more about the accelerator program and apply by the May 1st deadline, read on!
Passage of a tax package is another possible item on Congress’ list for the lame duck session, which is discussed in a recent ML Strategies alert. Three dozen tax provisions are scheduled to expire December 31, about half of which pertain to energy provisions. Congress approved last December a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations and $680 billion tax extenders package and adjourned for the first session of the 114th Congress. To learn more about the tax extenders package, read on!
In late July, the Obama administration announced a collaboration with 50 federal and state agencies, electric utility companies, vehicle manufacturers, electric charging station companies, and others in the private sector to promote faster development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and increased numbers of electric cars on the roads.
This announcement, made in partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Air Force and Army, comes just after the DOE’s first-ever Sustainable Transportation Summit. To learn more about the collaboration, continue reading!
Last week, President Obama announced that the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) will lead the new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, in partnership with the Department of Energy. The winning coalition, headquartered in Los Angeles, California brings together a consortium of nearly 200 partners across more than 30 states from industry, academia, and non-profits to propel advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that can greatly improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing. To learn more about SMLC and the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, continue reading!
Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced nearly $16 million in funding to help businesses commercialize promising energy technologies from DOE’s National Laboratories to the marketplace. This is the first Department-wide funding allocation through the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) that will support 54 projects at 12 national labs involving 52 private-sector partners. To read more about the TCF, read on!
Earlier this week the Department of Energy (DOE) announced $23 million in funding for 23 new projects focused on developing clean energy technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation. These small businesses will receive $1 million each over the next two years, through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) combined Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, to advance innovative concepts into prototype technologies. Most of these Phase II funding recipients also received Phase I funding in 2015 when projects were selected based on scientific and technical merit and commercial potential. For more details regarding the DOE funding announcement, read on!